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Spotlight on the Music

“Finding the Inspiration for 'Caretta Caretta'”

by Ty Curtis Ty Curtis photo For more "stories behind the music" visit our blog.
It’s really strange how many ups and downs a writer can go through while composing a new song. As I was writing the songs for “Sea Animal Adventures,” I remember how sometimes the words to the songs flowed freely from my fingers to the keypad of my computer. Other times, however, I felt that bogged-down feeling that composers sometimes get.

I remember one day I felt stuck while trying to come up with the topic for a new song for the children’s CD. I needed a change of scenery and a break from the self-imposed pressure, so I got into my car and drove down to the local Wal-Mart to pick up some supplies. It was late June, and the sun warmed the asphalt in front of the store. I remember the warm, South Carolina breeze as it made its way from the Charleston Harbor, then across the parking lot to my face. I got a few items from the store and went through the customer checkout. I took my time heading back to the car because it felt like this might be an unproductive day to attempt to write music for children. Nevertheless, it was back to the writer's grind for me.

I climbed into my car and started the engine. As I shifted the car into reverse I noticed the car that was parked in front of me. I happened to glance down at the license plate of that vehicle. That’s when it came to me! Inspiration as clear as the midday sun. The license tag on the car was one of our endangered species plates. The image on the plate was that of our state reptile, the loggerhead sea turtle. Now if that wasn’t enough to get me excited, there was another eye-catching sight for my thirsty eyes. On the back of the car was a sticker that said, “Get Inspired!” That was enough for me.

I headed back to my office with a new sense of direction for the next song for the personalized music album. This children’s song that I was about to compose would be about “Caretta, Caretta.” That is the Latin word for the loggerhead sea turtle. I began researching the sea turtle, looking for particular tidbits of information that would lend themselves to a musical flow. I was searching for something that would reveal the fragile nature of this species. Somehow I needed to personify sea turtles in such a way that children could relate to them. I chose a waltz, 3/4 tempo. There was something about that time signature that reminded me of the constant sway of the ocean. The song began with Caretta’s birth under a moonlit palm, and mentioned her struggles to make it to the safety of a small lagoon. Then the lyrics talked about her victorious life, soaring through the sea. Finally, the song concluded with her peaceful flight to a starry lagoon, far beyond the moon.

I remember as I completed writing the final verse for this song, how tears filled my eyes. They were not tears of happiness for completing the days work. No, these tears were coming from a place a little deeper. I let out a sigh as I realized that I had just paralleled the life-story of my own mother in this song. Incidentally, my mom would move on to her Heavenly home the following year. To this day, every time I listen to the song, “Caretta, Caretta,” I feel that old familiar tug on my heart, and my mind races back to a happy place, filled with fond memories of my mom.